Something funny happens in Britain when it snows. The gulf stream warms us throughout the winter, making proper snow very rare. Unlike in Switzerland, Germany or even New York, we don’t have the right equipment, the right prevention, the right attitude. And why bother? It snows, on average, in the bit where most of us live, once every three years. And by once, I do mean once. One day, one hour of one day. No more. Until it does.
Even when it does snow, it is more likely to be in February, March or April. The whole idea of a ‘white Christmas’ is not a modern English one. Not since the ice fairs of Victoriana did it properly freeze anywhere near London. The last frost fair was held in 1814, before the Thames was embanked, making it narrower, faster and less liable to freeze at all.
And yet sometimes, the temperature does drop just this side of Christmas. Sometimes, the wind doth blow in the correct direction and the stars align and we get snow. And we get chaos.
These days, the schools are quick to close. So at least one parent has to choose whether they stay at home too. In our house, I very quickly and frequently get nominated as I work at a laptop and can easily do it from home. My wife, who works in a hospital, is not so lucky. It is exceptional, therefore, for both of us to be at home with our daughter this early in December. I love it. It’s quite fun watching those with greater pressures, or a higher calling, struggling about in the blizzard. As we live in a hilly area, it is just as entertaining discovering who, contrary to all available evidence, never learned to drive a car. The number of bent and ruined vehicles at the bottom of our hill proves that very few of us bother to practice in snow and ice.
Obviously, the dog cannot be allowed out in the snow. It clogs his paws and fur and turns him into a snowman within seconds, followed shortly by hypothermia and sudden death. So he is banned from venturing out for activities beyond the normal bodily jobbies. Our daughter has this year, for the first time, denounced snow as being too cold and too wet to be of much use.
So it is left to me to strap those dusty old tennis rackets to my feet and clear the drive, the paths and the cars. I do so with relish. Who would want to be stuck indoors for hours on end when paradise has returned, however temporarily, to earth?